Working Paper on Indian Nationalism

A three-day national seminar was initiated and co-organized by IFIH at Kolkata on 23-25 February 2003 on the theme of Indian nationalism.

Chaired by Prof. Ramaranjan Mukherji, the concluding session focussed on educational aspects of Indian nationalism. The following points emerged from the presentations and ensuing discussions, and it was agreed that this working paper would be submitted to the Government of India, incorporating practical proposals to make necessary improvements in the educational policy.

At the outset, it was noted that the Constitutional Amendment N°51-A (b) makes it a “fundamental duty of citizens” to “cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom.” Moreover, the recent Supreme Court judgement (12 September 2002) on the National Curriculum Framework for School Education reiterated the S. B. Chawan Committee’ report of 1996, which stated that “… national values can be imparted indirectly at the primary stage, while at the middle and secondary level, these can be included in the curriculum.”

It was also noted that the present system of education has failed to inspire such values in students, mainly because of an overburdened syllabus and a dry, mechanical teaching of history in the form of largely irrelevant facts and dates that are forgotten soon after the examinations are over.

The panel then agreed on the following recommendations:



1. The lives of the great early exponents of Indian nationalism, for instance Swami Vivekananda, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sri Aurobindo, Sister Nivedita, Subramania Bharati and others, must be taught in an inspiring manner.





2. A collection of brief extracts from inspirational writings by a wide selection of Indian Nationalists and freedom fighters, from all regions of India, should be made available to students as supplementary reading material





3. The historical role and significance of the Bande Mataram national song by Bankim Chandra should be highlighted from the secondary level.





4. A certain number of misconceptions still plague the way in which the freedom movement is taught; for instance, the notion that the Indian nation came into existence only thanks to the colonial masters; the failure to highlight the distinctive features of Indian nationalism as compared to Western types of nationalism; the eclipse of a number of important early pioneers of the freedom movement, their values, thoughts, action and role; the depiction of some freedom fighters as “terrorists”; party considerations in highlighting one group of leaders resulting in sacrificing the importance of the contributions of other leaders. A fair and objective account of the freedom movement, devoid of any ideological bias, is yet to be written.





5. Innovative methods making use of India’s rich heritage — art forms, folk songs, drama, literary wealth, etc. — must be promoted in place of the present system of learning by rote, also modern multimedia resources (for example films from the early decades of the twentieth century, documentaries...). Creative re-enactments of important stages or events or characters of the freedom movement in the form of dramas, exhibitions, etc., should be encouraged, especially with an interdisciplinary approach combining history, language skills and art forms.





6. For the purpose, the Central or State Governments should develop well-equipped National Resource Centres in a number of cities, where such material will be available to students, teachers and the general public in print and electronic medium and in the form of permanent exhibitions.





7. Such new material and methods will be in consonance with the approach that sees the student not as a mere recipient of academic learning, but as a soul to be ignited.





8. Students should be taken at least once a year to places of historical importance with regard to Indian nationalism. Kanyakumari’s Rock Memorial, the Andaman penitentiary or the Alipore Jail, memorials to Tilak, Bankim or Subramania Bharati and hundreds of other such places, dot the country and should remain in the consciousness of present and future generations





9. Keeping in mind the cultural roots of Indian nationalism, which are far more ancient than the colonial era, Sanskrit should be taught at primary, middle and secondary levels. In particular, the two great Indian Epics, which have long played a considerable role in culturally unifying the nation, must be studied, preferably through innovative methods such as those outlined above. Here again, reference may be made to the recent Supreme Court judgement, which explicitly “emphasized the importance of Sanskrit study and declared the omission of Sanskrit from CBSE syllabus as unjustified.”





10. The above recommendations are, in fact, part of a process of decolonization of the Indian mind, an indispensable process if students are to become truly Indian, conscious of what India has stood for throughout history and can still offer to humanity today and tomorrow.




(M. Pramod Kumar)
(Kapil Kapoor)
(Michel Danino)
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